Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras
Photo by Els Slots.

The Rice Terraces of the Cordilleras comprise a cultural landscape developed 2,000 years ago by the Ifugao people.

The five included clusters of terraces are still in use, and are under continuous maintenance by the current Ifugao farmers who work together as a community. The terraces are located up to 1500 meters altitude and have steep slopes. A complex system of dams, sluices, channels and bamboo pipes keeps whole groups of terraces adequately flooded by water coming from the mountaintops.

Community Perspective: Banaue is the main hub to see these rice terraces, but you have to take a separate day trip outside of town to reach one of the included components. Bernard, Riccardo and GabLabCebu all have visited multiple of the terraces over the course of 2-3 days.

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Philippines - 06-Oct-19 -

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras by GabLabCebu


In the Philippines, you grow up hearing about them; seeing pictures of them; memorizing them for your Social Studies or Araling Panlipunan quiz; even having them in your wallet (on the opposite side from President Quezon's face). The Ifugao Rice Terraces! And if there's one thing that unites Pinoys, it's rice. The crop is grown all around the country in the iconic Asian rice paddies. And what happens when you live in the mountains where there's no flat land to make paddies? Well, most would just move to better grounds, but for the people of the Philippine Cordilleras, they created terraces. Now, as an avid traveler, agricultural terraces weren't exactly new to me, and, I'm guessing, for many of you reading this as well. I had previously seen the maize and potato terraces of the Andes, vineyards of Europe, and olive terraces of the Levant. What makes these terraces so special? The sheer beauty of it! In other parts of the world, terraces are basically auxiliary attractions. The Incas just happened to build terraces to support their impressive cities, the Europeans their vineyards nearby their various manors, the Balinese their rice terraces as part of irrigation systems that also provide their temples, and so on. Many of those are either deserted and unkept, rather recent, or not scenic. It's different here in Ifugao, where the terraces, their beauty, their culture, their people, and the experiences they offer are what make a trip to them. I could've spent a whole week in Ifugao just to see different terraces and maybe even a whole month to see those in the other provinces, some of which one would pass on a side trip to Sagada.

I spent 3 days in Banaue, including a day trip to Sagada. The night bus from Manila is pretty convenient, arriving early in the morning and departing at around 5pm. I communicated with a local guide, Jhun Ognayon (really nice guy), ahead of time, and he was there at the bus station (the side of the 2-lane highway, by the tourism office) to pick me up. The terraces are all around the town of Banaue, but these aren't the WHS, and they're not what I'm here for. These terraces are mostly abandoned now, as people prefer to work in town than in the fields. The WHS and the real treasures of the province are all living agricultural landscapes, where one can actually find farmers working and endless fields of rice growing. I visited 3 out of the 5 clusters on the list: Batad, Bangaan, and Hungduan (actually a municipality with several clusters of terraces). The other 2 clusters, Mayoyao and Nagacadan, are in the Mayoyao and Kiangan municipalities, respectively, which are a bit farther away from the town of Banaue, so with my time constraints, I decided against including them. Mayoyao is also known for its native tombs and other cultural properties found within the terraces, which was really tempting, but would warrant a whole day's hike for itself. Though I would definitely return to see Mayoyao, I ended up really impressed by and satisfied with the 3 I visited. This was in May 2019, and the terraces are a bright green in this time of year, and some of the grains were already big and golden, which I learn means that they're ready for harvest. After checking in and settling down, we left for Batad, over half an hour from the town by the scenic highway carved into the mountainside.

Batad is, by far, the most impressive set of terraces I've ever seen, and I believe, the most impressive in the world. It's commonly termed as the "amphitheater" terraces, but it only covers one semicircular slope of the mountain, which makes it more like "theater" terraces. This does mean that it doesn't seem infinite like the clusters in Banaue and Hungduan, but just how scenic it is more than makes up for it. From the saddle, it's a short trek (about half an hour each way, though pretty steep and across some unstable rocks) through the jungle to the village, where the terraces come into full view. The trek's approach really builds up the suspense of the view too. There's a little tease before you arrive in the form of a few small terraces. The view from the village is the most iconic view, but Jhun and I took another short (also about half an hour each way) trek to the highest point of the terraces, where I believe the best view is. From the village, the view faces the terraces with a bit of an angle, so it's more like a postcard. Trekking into the terraces, however, opens up a whole new perspective to the view. As easy as it is to appreciate the steepness from the village viewpoint, that steepness becomes so much more real when on one side, you see the other terraces hundreds of meters below. From the top, the whole site is just all around, and I could really finally take in the whole scene and what this all was. The path we followed was literally the edge of a terrace, where we spotted a 70-something year-old woman tending to her rice crops. My guide had a few words with her in their native language, and that really brought home for me how amazing this landscape is. The stunning scenery, the extremely distinct culture so close to home yet unrecognizable, the deathly view on one side, the rice crops brushing by my hands on the other, it was all so breathtaking - including the hike itself. Even Jhun was having a hard time catching his breath. You can also trek to the Tappiya Falls behind the mountain, but I opted against it due to time constraints and the fact that I've seen many great waterfalls both inside (check out Tinuy-an in Surigao!) and outside the country. We also joked that we didn't need to trek to a waterfall as so many seemed to spill onto the highway. Water isn't exactly a scarce resource here, but it's still important to note the importance of the irrigation systems such as those used in the terraces in that the distribution and storage of water resources for agriculture is still especially hard up in the mountains.

After Batad, we kept driving towards the 2nd WHS cluster, Bangaan. This is the smallest cluster, it seems, as it consists of just a small village and the terraces around it. Don't let that fool you, the village here is actually the highlight, unlike the slight eyesore it is in other clusters. In Batad, the village is starting to modernize. Most buildings are already concrete with painted metal roofs and walls, but in Bangaan, you can see a traditional village, almost completely brown. The best view is from the side of the highway, where a makeshift zipline for transporting goods to the village can be seen. The nearby Duclingan terraces, which I'm actually unsure of if they're part of the WHS Bangaan cluster, are just as impressive down the road. They are situated in a river valley, called the "Snake River" for the snaking path of the river, and the terraces seem to cling to the edges of the river, creating a really beautiful view. The next day, we saw the very scenic but non-WHS Banaue central cluster and the Bayyo village terraces in Mountain Province en route to Sagada. The highway itself passes in the middle of some living rice terraces, but their scenic value is somewhat muted by the terrain and the fact that the highway snakes in their midst. The Banaue terraces truly seem endless, and it may surprise people that it isn't part of the WHS, but upon actually walking through them, I discovered that there wasn't a single rice crop in many of them. Bayyo, on the other hand, seems really scenic and actively-used, so I'm not sure why they weren't included in the nomination other than maybe lacking a defining outstanding characteristic or simply not being located in Ifugao. I can't really judge that one much since the viewpoint by the highway is some distance away.

On the 3rd day, I visited the Hapao cluster in the neighboring Hungduan municipality. We had to stop at the tourism office there first, as Hungduan only allows treks with guides from the municipality. This was probably the most off-the-beaten-track of the ones I visited, but also the most in-depth experience, since I trekked the greatest distance here to get to the Bogya hot spring. The trail starts in a not-so-scenic part by the Hapao Barangay Hall, but even from there, the vastness of the terraces is already apparent. The trail goes through some jungle before coming into the terraces about 2km in. The jungle is home to a lot of interesting fauna, including a strange green stem that was quite crunchy and sour, a delicacy for the locals. When we finally reached the terraces, I felt so at home with all the rice around me. Soon after this, the view opened up and I saw the iconic view of Hapao: a wide river valley with equally wide and vast terraces. These were very much in contrast with those of Batad, being more horizontally impressive. It was also great to be on a trail with barely anyone in sight, aside from the occasional passing delivery man with packages maybe a third of his body weight perched on his head. God, I don't know how they carry so much while walking so fast. Anyway, as I go on, the terraces get narrower as we go up the valley until they simply line the river, the flat terrain giving way to the mountains at last. Canals of clear cold water line the paths until I reach the end of the terraces and I see the source of the main canal: a diversion channel from the river. Speaking of source, this is also where the hot springs are, and they're quite a nice place to chill after the hike. I, however, was more drawn to the river beside the hot spring, where travelers over the years have stacked rocks to form a really cool collection of rock towers right on the shallow river bed. It's a really cool atmospheric place to end the hike. We then walked all the way back to the road, tired but happy with the experience. While we did encounter a few tourists, mostly white backpackers it seems, I loved the authenticity of the experience in Hapao. Everything is just the way it is without tourists, so it really sparkles naturally, like a real dreamland. In the middle of terraces, you’d see the occasional church or storehouse or palm tree pop up, and yet not disrupting the scene. You can just feel so close to not only nature, but also the way of life here in the mountains.

The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras are truly outstanding in all of the agricultural landscapes of the world. Their setting in the high-altitude steep slopes of the Cordilleras gives them their unmatched beauty as well as isolates and preserves their unique cultural heritage. As a fellow Pinoy, I really couldn’t understand a word of their language, and apparently there are so many more distinct dialects and languages within the province and the region. Their traditional customs are so rich and unique that only they represent the Philippines in UNESCO’s list of Intangible World Heritage. The culture is the backbone of this site, and without it, we wouldn’t have these world-class treasures of terraces. They’d be abandoned like those in Banaue, fall into disrepair, and lose all the history they hold, and all that was once, and may again be, in danger of happening. The draw of employment in the cities means that fewer and fewer in the younger generations will stay and maintain the terraces and the culture. The terraces will need more and more protection as the years pass.

As to why the terraces of the other provinces have not been included in this protection, I still don’t know. All 5 terrace clusters in the WHS are actually part of the Ifugao province, manifesting the unique Ifugao culture. However, neighboring provinces like Mountain Province, Kalinga, and Benguet are also home to beautiful terraces and rich cultures of their own, as I saw in Bayyo. Even Ifugao and the Banaue municipality have more inaccessible terraces that could be worthy of inclusion in the WHS. From what I’ve seen from my own experiences, though, the few terraces inscribed were indeed there for a reason. They really are the most beautiful and impressive agricultural terraces that I’ve seen, and quite possibly, in the world, especially Batad. Though they obviously aren't the first or only spark of innovation in agricultural terraces around the world (their age is still debatable from as early as over 2 millenia ago and as late as around 5 centuries ago, either way the concept was passed down from Southern China), they are still unique for their natural setting and perfect execution. Altogether, they form an exemplary ensemble of the cultural impact on natural landscapes, united by their place as influences and icons of Ifugao heritage. I’ll forever reminisce of walking through the endless rice fields, golden crops of grain on one side and a steep, deathly fall on the other, with the forested mountains and terraces and blue skies all around me, the clean mountain air blowing in my face. They’re absolutely worth the long trip to the Cordilleras, even a sleepless night bus ride. At least, that’s what I think as I get on the bus to leave behind me the Ifugao life, as I leave the dreamland. It’s a sight everyone must see, smell, feel, hike, and absorb to believe.

Riccardo Quaranta

Italy - 04-Jun-17 -

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras by Riccardo Quaranta

Ifugao, which means People of the Hill, is a province in the Cordillera Administrative Region on the island of Luzon, in the Philippines. This area is famous for the 2000 years old rice terraces that are inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List with the name of “Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras“. This was the first property to be included in the Cultural Landscape category.

The site comprises five clusters of rice terraces: Batad Rice Terraces, Bangaan Rice Terraces, Hungduan Rice Terraces, Mayoyao Rice Terraces and Nagacadan Rice Terraces. I managed to visit the first three of the list and I was stunned by the harmony between the environment and the people living there, who morphed the landscape according to their needs but managed to preserve the environment.

A good way to visit the rice terraces is to stay in Banaue, a small town in the middle of the Cordillera mountain range. Banaue can be reached directly from Manila or nearby bigger cities such as Bontoc, Sagada and Baguio. I took a Jeepney from Sagada which was full so I had to sit on the roof. Although very uncomfortable it was an amazing experience.

From Banaue it is relatively easy to arrange visits to the rice terraces. The easiest way is to hire, either privately or through the local tourist centre, a car or a trike (little motorcycles with side cars) to get as close as possible to the sites.

The Hungduan terraces are completely made of mud walls and said to look like a giant spider web. I found them impressive, but I couldn’t see any resemblance to a spider web.

The next day I hired another trike to visit Bangaan and Batad. I was first taken to Bangaan, which is on the road from Banaue to Mayoyao. Bangaan is a typical Ifugao traditional village and it’s located at the bottom of a small valley whose sides were transformed into rice terraces. It is very picturesque and from the top it looks like a fairy tale village.

After Bangaan my driver took me to Batad. Batad rice terraces are known as the amphitheatre-like terraces. Once I got to see them I immediately understood why. These amazing rice terraces were carved into the sides of the mountains around 2000 years ago and are still a truly stunning sight.

While Banaue and Hungduan rice terraces are mud-walled, Batad rice terraces are stone-walled. It is possible to walk along them, go up and down on the paths used by the locals to work the fields and admire the incredible views from anywhere in and above the amphitheatre-like valley. The village, and the lodges overlooking it, also offer a few places to eat and have some refreshing much-needed drinks, after the tough hike and the heat of the Philippines.

The bravest, with still some energy left after the numerous ups and downs along the terraces, can go to the viewpoint, the highest point of the amphitheatre, which is on the opposite side when reaching the village from the Saddle. It is impossible to miss the steps that climb to the viewpoint as, seen from far away, they look like a frightening scar along the side of the mountain. However, the view from up there is unbeatable. The valley can be seen in all its imposing beauty. It was hard, but it was worth every drop of my sweat.

The rice terraces in the Philippine Cordilleras illustrate how cultural traditions were preserved with continuity and endurance. According to UNESCO, archaeological evidence shows that the terraces have been in the region for about 2000 years virtually unchanged, although other sources believe that terracing began in the Cordilleras less than one thousand years ago as taro cultivation, before taro was replaced by rice around 500 years ago. In any case the rice terraces are an outstanding example of sustainable use of the natural resources, able to produce food for a local community. They represent the work of a community that has been in harmony with its environment for hundreds of years.

Read more from Riccardo Quaranta here.

Gary Arndt

USA - 15-Mar-17 -

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras by Gary Arndt

I visited the Rice Terraces in October 2007.

The Rice Terraces of Banaue are easily the most impressive attraction in the Phillippines. The terraces were built over the course of centuries, and the locals like to describe it as the "largest thing built by free humans", which is a dig at the pyramids.

Getting to Banaue takes a bit of time, as you have to go up winding mountain roads, but it isn't too challenging. When I visited in 2007 the only real hotel option was a tourist hotel built during the Macros regime.

If you have to ask the question "what should I go see in the Philippines?", I'd put the Rice Terraces on the top of your list.

Read more about the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras on my website.

Bernard Joseph Esposo Guerrero

The Philippines - 11-Jun-12 -

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras by bernard Joseph Guerrero

I just recently came from a trip in Ifugao. I was lucky enough to have been guided by a British friend of mine who owns an inn in Uhaj (overseeing the Hungduan Rice Terraces - WHS, which is largely regarded as the first and oldest of the rice terraces clusters in the area). I was able to visit the rice terraces in Banaue, namely Batad and Bangaan in a day -- these two clusters share the same route so maximizing the opportunity to see 2 WHS clusters in one go is a give away. Batad Rice Terraces gave me the impression of might and boldness. Among the 5 clusters inscribed as WHSites, Batad probably holds the steepest terraces (from a distance, it practically looks like a cliff). It's ampitheatre-like landscape is stunning. Going there requires some time and strength as the traveling would consume about 2.5hours, including trekking to the site. On the way back to Banaue town proper, we made a quick visit to Bangaan. Bangaan, on the other hand, is humble and unpretentious. A part of me, in fact, is convinced that Bangaan has a better character than Batad and Hungduan given the landscape and the topography it is located in. Bangaan is a colorful site as with its varying shades of green and brown fields; its small village is also intact in the middle. By and large, the rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras are truly amazing and are among the best cultural landscapes there are to find. It is also worth noting that their traditional epic, called "Hudhud" is also inscribed by UNESCO as one representative of Oral and Intangible Heritage of the World. I guess, this - among other things - fortifies its claim as a living cultural landscape. Also, although not analogous, the rice terraces might be the Philippines' best bet in comparison to the ancient pre-colonial vestiges (Ayutthaya, Angkor, Borubudur, etc.) in the neighboring Southeast Asian countries. To a large extent, the rice terraces are even the oldest stone structures in Southeast Asia.


Philippines - 09-Mar-10 -

Visited Batad and Bangaan rice terraces last February 2010.

Such an amazing experience! Stayed in Batad Homestay c/o Mang Ramon who can offer the "rice terrace" experience - like preparing rice, bonfire activity, rice wine ceremony at night, staying in one of the native huts.

Apart from the external factors affecting the site, i.e., climate change, El Nino phenomenon, it appears that the problem is internal. The younger Ifugao may have misinterpreted the concept of modernization. Based on the conversations I made with the locals, I learned that a lot of the young people feel that working in big cities and earning money is a sort of "escape" so they won't need to learn all the rituals and techniques in rice planting.

The rice terraces are still beautiful despite all the problems threatening their survival.

John Dear

America - 31-Mar-09 -

It was a great place! We went there and it was so big - no wonder it is a heritage site! WE visited the farmers, then took a look around. You should fly a plane there - the views are AMAZING!

Also, the degration is quite serious. I think it should be partly closed off to visitors.

Thomas Matovinovic

Australia - 25-Jul-08 -

Hello I was at the Banaue Rice Terrace in 2002 March with my wife who is a Philippino. We were so happy we took to time to see this place. I read a few of the other comments and they are right in saying this is amazing to see such engineering. On the return walk back to the peak we stoped at the hut for lunch and watched the terraces for a good hour before leaving. I used to watch these terraces on TV documenarys so it was a very speacal time for me also for my wife to be there to see them and walk on them. The locals are so hard working and happy looking. As we walked back up the mountain feeling sorry for ourselves as our legs weakend we saw many of the locals carrying sacks of rice on their backs keeping pace with us! Tough as billgoats knees they are!

The only thing I found frightning was the drive from Baguio to Banaue at night. We started in the evening and the mountain road made me so scared. When night came I just hung onto the hand rail and just waited to tumble over the side into a valley. The ride was something like 12 hours. But I was astonished when I turned on the GPS to find we where only aprox 75kilometres from Baguio! Your basicly turning and swerving around the mountain top roads. I hope anyone who ventures there has a great time as we did.


Thomas Matovinovic

Western Australia, Albany

Becky Molar

Philippines - 19-Jun-08 -

I've just been to this WH site last weekend and the journey itself was an adventure. From downtown Banaue, we rented a tricycle. It was already noontime and the local we've asked about the trip was quite suprised that we'll be going there late that day. I was thinking it would just take us max of 2hours and we'll be in Batad. After about an hour of driving through very rough terrain, the tricycle driver finally stopped and asked that we walk our way to Batad. At that point, I didn't see any rice terraces anywhere so I asked how far the place was. I saw the grin in his face when he said we just need to walk and we'll see the community in no time. This was the longest trail I've ever walked in my entire life. An hour of rough and stony road, and yet no signs of rice terraces. So much for watching too much TV, I thought it was that simple. Finally, we saw a small hut just a few meters away. I can't believe we made it. There was a jeepney parked, few men offering to be trek guide and a small store with drinks to offer. Imagining how far we've gone and how many mountains we've crossed, I was suprised that they have several beverages, the same stuff sold in city supermarket. We stopped for a few minutes, to rest our feet and replenish with lots of water and energy drink. Finally, we asked where to head next since still, I didn't see a community nearby. To my suprise, a local pointed a red roofed house across a huge mountain, and told us that that was our final destination. My jaw dropped. I can't believe it was that far. From where we stood, it looked to me like an endless foot trek, several mountains ahead. We were half the journey and sadly, there's no way backing out. With all the courage and strengths, we started yet another hour of walking up and down the mountains. Fast forward, after another hour, I can't believe we made it. At first, we found a place to rest and eat. We were so starved by that time. By the time we have finished our meals and rested a bit, that's when I saw the magnificent landscape. It's hard to believe that those rice terraces just in front of us were man made. They were so lovely, you would just stop and stare and wish to live in the same community. Needless to say, the local were so friendly and accomodating. And the sincere welcome smiles they give were enough to forget the journey. Too bad, we just have an hour to spare and we needed to head back just in time to catch a bus that will bring us back to Manila. But I promise to be back but this time, stay longer probably a couple of nights to have a solemn and peaceful vacation in this beautifully sculpted mountains.


philippines - 27-Apr-08 -

Rice Terraces in Banaue town is quite a disappointment compared to the ones in Batad Village, it's really beautiful there, but getting there takes effort. you have to hike from the junction where the road ends to the saddle for about 40 minutes to an hour and from the saddle to Batad Village is an hour down the mountains. the view and the village is really really awe inspiring and just glorious. no words. there's a beautiful waterfalls in Batad, another one hour hike from batad village. batad rice terraces is the best rice terraces i think in whole ifugao province.

Els Slots

The Netherlands - 17-Dec-05 -

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras by Els Slots

My two days in the Rice Terrace Region of the Cordilleras got off to a bad start: rain was pouring down all of the first day. I didn’t get any further than the Banaue viewpoint and returned to my guesthouse soaking and with only one gloomy photo of a rice terrace that even isn’t on the list.

It kept on raining during the following night, but things didn’t look too bad the following morning. I decided to make an early start and head for Bangaan. By various means of transport, that even included climbing over a landslide that had occurred during the night, I eventually arrived at the town of Bangaan. It’s picturesque, there is no other word for it. Imagine a valley surrounded by high green mountains, with only steep rice terraces on their lower slopes, and a tiny hamlet in the middle. Or look at the photos around this post.

There’s an enormous variation in shades of green (and some brown), wherever you look. Narrow walls / paths make it possible to walk amidst these rice fields. Because it’s not the rice harvesting season only fields with seedlings are bright green in December when I visited. But there’s a lot more to these rice terraces than growing rice: their construction technique (a massive effort 2000 years ago) and also the traditions of the Ifugao people that still live here and earn a meager income from the rice (and make a bit on the side by selling souvenirs).

There are several more WH-designated rice terraces in this area. The ones in Batad are the best according to both the guidebooks and the locals. My (self-imposed) travel schedule didn’t leave room for a visit to Batad or one of the others, but Bangaan already did let me conclude that these Rice Terraces are worth every effort of getting there.


UK - 04-Aug-05 -

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras by Solivagant

I agree with Ivan ManDy’s evaluation of the Philippine Cordilleras. As I write this review I am looking above my monitor at a wonderful piece of handwoven Ifugao cloth hanging on the wall with its bright reds, blacks, whites and yellows. It is one of my better WHS souvenirs and brings back visions of green rice terraces and peasant girls wearing wearing wrap round skirts of the same cloth. If you do go then by all means visit the “classic” viewing point above Banaue on the road to Bontoc (photo). This however is rather touristy and is packed with old Ifugao ladies puffing enormous pipes waiting to be photographed! So try also to visit some of the lesser known valleys away from the tourist trap of Banaue. We had a rent-a-car which made this easier though it is better still to take to the footpaths. Driving in the Philippines among the “Jeepnies” which give no quarter in the battle for road space is an experience in itself. Indeed the Philippines has a lot going for it as a tourist destination – and the Rice terraces are certainly “worth the journey”.

However Ivan ManDy is only partially right in his assertion that the Philippine Cordillera was the first “Cultural Landscape” site to be inscribed. It was indeed the first to be so inscribed from scratch and the first purely on cultural criteria but Tongariro in New Zealand was re-designated a “Cultural Landscape” in 1993 as was Uluru in Australia in 1994. Both had been WHS on purely “natural criteria” since 1990 and 1987 respectively. Sintra in Portugal was also inscribed as a cultural landscape in the same year as the Philippine Cordillera but is numbered “1” later! This raises a number of issues about the definition of “Cultural Landscapes which WHS enthusiasts might find interesting!

The World Heritage category of “Cultural Landscape” has in fact only existed since 1992 when it was first accepted that there were some sites which were of “outstanding universal value” which the standard cultural and natural criteria were not picking up (the failure of UK’s nomination of “The Lake District” apparently played a part in this decision though I note that it still sits forlornly in UK’s Tentative List whilst St Kilda was “upgraded” to be a mixed site AND a cultural Landscape” in 2005 ). Thus the “category” sits rather uncomfortably within the older distinctions of “Natural”, “Cultural” and “Mixed (If anyone is interested in this subject I recommend “Landscapes for the World by P Fowler, Windgather Press ISBN 0-9545575-9-X which is solely about WHS Cultural Landscapes and/or an article by him which can be found by searching on “Cultural Landscape” on the UNESCO site )

In fact, most “Cultural Landscapes” are inscribed purely on Cultural criteria though some are mixed. Conversely only some mixed properties are “Cultural Landscapes” and this is not only because of those inscribed before the new category was created eg, to take a site at random, the Laponian area in Sweden was inscribed in 1996 as a mixed natural/cultural site but is NOT officially a “Cultural Landscape” (even though the ICOMOS evaluation suggested it should be!) whilst the Island of Oland inscribed in 2000 on purely cultural criteria is so described! It is actually quite difficult to identify which sites are “Cultural Landscapes” – some, but only a minority, have the words included in the title – for others you have to delve more deeply into the UNESCO web site and sometimes even into the papers of the Advisory Body Evaluation (or the above article)

I am not a geographer but apparently the term “Cultural Landscape” has existed since around 1926 and still causes great debate within professional circles eg the view that “Cultural Landscapes do not exist as such, or at least, they are not worthy of being protected because the influence of humankind is intrinsically degrading”. Apparently the inscription of the “Blaenavon Industrial Landscape” as a cultural landscape in 2000 caused and causes great concern and has not been followed by any other “non rural landscapes (The Derwent Valley is not officially a “cultural landscape” even though the ICOMOS evaluation uses the term!)

Whatever the esoteric debates about the category and what it means the Philippine Cordilleras site transcends them and is surely unarguably “world class”. Fowler writes “..the terraces of the Ifugao have remained a standard-setter since 1995, for they represent the quality against which all other potential WH cultural landscapes can be judged”.

Ivan ManDy

Philippines - 22-Jul-05 -

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras by Ivan ManDy

The Rice Terraces is (if Im not mistaken) the first world heritage site of UNESCO under the 'cultural landscape' title.

It was only when I visited it for the second time (and explored further) did I realize the great extent of these terraces! The expanse is truly amazing - one town to another can take as much as 4 hours to reach by car! And to think that these terraces were carved in the mountains by hand! Only when you visit the Rice Terraces can you realize the primal importance of this crop to Filipino (and Asian) culture.

Glo A. Tuazon

Philippines - 01-May-05 -

I have been doing documentaries on most places and cultures in the Philippine Cordilleran Region and have gone about the rice terraces of the Mountain Provinces and of Ifugao. Looking at the stark wonder of it all would make one sad with the realization that this culture is slowly going to dust. With hard life ahead and modernization eating up every corner of the world, we should make efforts to preserve what is left of the past. That the future generations may have something to appreciate. Lack of funding to do all these is a very big problem, but I guess a little wonder at a time could make a difference. Educating the youth, community rehabilitation campaigns and programs, culture and tradition immersions, environmental missions, these all can do a lot.

I. ManDy

Philippines - 01-May-05 -

The Rice Terraces are really a stunning piece of landscape architecture. Only when you walk on the terraces itself can you realise the great expanse of the place. My hats off to the Ifguao people who built this cultural landscape! With the amount of 'modernization' going through the place, I just hope I'll still be able to visit it afterlife (in the next 1000 years)!

Ferdinand D. AYAHAO

Philippines - 01-May-05 -

There is a plan to construct a road to Batad where the most beautiful part of the terrraces are found.

The plan should be discouraged. Else, the awesome natural beauty would be permanently lost to the invasion of distractive technology like those which sprouted in Banaue central.

Lauris Anudon

Philippines - 01-May-05 -

The rice terraces are already showing signs of irreversible degradation especially those in that are accessible to land transportation. Structures are indiscriminately built on the terraces areas. Some areas are abandoned as people leave the place in search for more economically viable livelihood activities. The rice terraces is taken cared of by the older people with the younger generation getting aversed to terrace work as they get more educated. When nobody is willing to work in the rice terraces, that means the end of this heritage. Yet the national government is not concerned as shown by its abolition of the Banaue Rice Terraces Task Force and passed on the responsibility to the Provincial Government. The Provincial Government is so cash strapped that it depends on funding allocation from the national government with no other fund sources.

Site Info

Full Name
Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras
Unesco ID
3 4 5
Cultural Landscape - Continuing Human activity - Agriculture

Site History

2012 Removed from Danger list

2001 In Danger

Abandoning of the terraces

1995 Inscribed


The site has 5 locations

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras: Rice Terrace Clusters of Banaue: Battad Philippines
Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras: Rice Terrace Clusters of Banaue: Bangaan Philippines
Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras: Rice Terrace Clusters of Mayoyao: Mayoyao Central Philippines
Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras: Rice Terrace Clusters of Kiangan: Nagacadan Philippines
Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras: Rice Terrace Clusters of Hungduan Philippines


The site has

Human Activity
Individual People
Science and Technology
WHS on Other Lists
World Heritage Process